Life of an Entrepreneur

Taming The ADD That Is Your Phone - Killing Notifications

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Ever since I deleted Facebook from my phone this past Spring, I've been thinking about distractions, and how nice it is to not be distracted by all of the inner mumblings of all of the people out there that I have access to in that platform.

Scratch that. Ever since I read the feature piece in Variety magazine last Spring about children and addiction to devices, I've been more aware of how much time I've been staring at my phone. Or of my kids staring at the phone.

Finally, when I was enjoying the latest new feature from Instagram - creating Instastories by picking stickers and writing words in different fonts to be placed onto the image - I was getting constantly interrupted by Text messages and News notifications. So much so, that when they'd pop in at the top of my screen, I'd accidentally click on them because I was already going to click on the Font selection tool in Instastory, or to research more gif stickers of sparkly stars.

Killing the Text and News Notification PopUps Saved Me

And that's when I killed my Notifications for Text and News. Entirely. Not set on Temporary mode, where it blips up there for a few seconds and then disappears rather than waiting until you physically pay attention to it and swipe it away. It's just gone now.

Don't worry - they show up on my Lock screen, and my phone vibrates when a text comes in. Oh yeah - over a decade ago, I silenced all notifications on my desktop and mobile device. If you really want to drive yourself crazy, keep all of the sound alerts on. Someone who texts me for the first time (aka not a text-versation I know I'm in) might need to wait an hour or 15 minutes for me to reply to text if I don't feel it in my purse. And you know what? That's OK! We cannot be available on-demand all the time!

Convenience is getting in the way of our brains. Notifications like this are definitely triggering anyone with a hint of ADD tendencies to not focus or stay in their creative zone of a thought to complete a task with any amount of satisfaction. Want to know why you're never done in Facebook? Because there are constantly new notifications popping up in there telling you about who said what and which event they are going to.

Turn it all of, and Facebook will start emailing you about it, even though you've unsubscribed from that new type email marketing they just created.  Literally yesterday I got an email from Facebook: "Katie: Did you know that Susie just commented on Abby's post?" I've unsubscribed from this type of new email notification several times, to obviously no avail.

Help Yourself Market Better

You can be a great marketer in this age of distractions, but relying on tech companies to solve your problems of distraction won't work. They designed the distractions. If they design more tools to curb the distractions, you can see how that doesn't work. So. Turn them off.

It's nice of Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, to speak out as a PSA about the over-use of devices, how people are using the device they produce way more than they think they are (how can they not? it's a phone, a computer, a camera, a mailbox, a video game, a TV remote) while Cook was on a media tour promoting Apple's new feature, Screen Time, that tracks everything you do on the phone, including when you physically pick it up (no thanks!). As tech reporter Seth Fiegerman put it in his article for CNN Tech: "Welcome to 2018, when tech companies hold major press events to introduce innovative ways to use their products less."

Remember a time when you just had a phone. A land line, that might have been mounted to your kitchen wall. What did you do when you weren't on the phone? You took pictures outside with your camera. You drew. You kicked a soccer ball with your foot instead of flicking it across the screen with a random person maybe you are connected to in a soccer app.

Your brain will thank you. You will stay informed. You will still be able to check the news headlines, or see them on your "Lock" screen when your phone is sitting idle next to you at all times. You'll just be calmer, less frazzled, and you may complete a task. With satisfaction.

The Takeaway for Marketers - Headlines Are More Important Than Ever

If you remove several touch-points for notifications, you'll rely more than ever on short-form writing. The headline for a news story. The subject line in the email. Don't worry - this doesn't mean we are reading less. In fact, we may start reading more because we aren't getting interrupted. But - the trigger to get us into an article will be the headline, tweet, or email subject line.

Tin Shingle has a Training TuneUp for that. It's called "The Art of the Subject Line" and you'll want to follow the guidance presented in order to write spot-on email subjects that keep your open rates high, and your audience keeping up with what your business is doing.

The Art of the Email Subject Line

The most important part of your entire e-newsletter is the subject line. How you write the subject line will dictate the chances of your subscribers opening the newsletter you worked so hard on. In this Training TuneUp, find out what kind of subject lines worked from real-life examples, and why. There is a method to the madness, and when done right, your sales could increase with the subject line alone.

Newspaper Column Debut for Tin Shingle's Owner

Tin Shingle Gets Good Ink

Working with kids can be challenging (ok, very challenging), but can have payoffs. It's a hot topic in the world because so many of you do it!

Tin Shingle's owner, Katie Hellmuth Martin, has just debuted her first monthly column for the hyper-local paper, The Highlands Current.

“Kid Friendly” is a love-inspired column about kids and the realities of having them. Topics that will be tackled include entertainment, interior design, food, fitness, events, working-parent life, childcare. All the things we need to do in order to make kid-friendly work. You can read the first column here!

Being published in ink alongside local journalists is a huge honor, and writing about this subject matter is important to Katie, as so many working parents navigate the life/kid balance on a daily basis.


Local Tin Shinglers Can Submit Ideas

This column will feature businesses, events, shops, experts and service providers whenever possible. Features must be from Beacon, NY or Cold Spring, NY. Ideas for the months ahead are below, and more details and contact information has been added to Tin Shingle's Special Opps PR Lead section for Level 4 All Access Pass members to access at any time.

This is a mini-editorial calendar idea list for the column, and actual themes may change.

September
Back to Work - Working With Kids (and Snow Days!)

October
Over Scheduled

November
Giving Back

December
Holiday Realness

January
Interior Design

February
Love inspired

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The Live Training TuneUp Webinar is at Summer Camp This Week!

Writing from the moment of Summer Camp With The Kids! This week the live broadcast of the Training TuneUp is on break while we catch up on spring cleaning and article writing. Meanwhile, we are pre-recording a must-watch for you...a fresh Holiday Gift Guide How-To with your favorite PR Star...Sabina Hitchen of Sabina Knows! Subscribe to our email to be alerted as to when it drops into our TuneUp library.  

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The Case of the $5 Etsy Earring and the Joy of the Sale

 Photo Credit:  Tekniska Museet

Photo Credit: Tekniska Museet

There's an epidemic in pricing in women's work that I became aware of when I first started selling accessories under my design label 15 years ago: designers of beautifully made hand-crafted jewelry were selling it for $5, thus not paying themselves to make the jewelry, and maybe not even covering the cost of the materials. My accessories were sewn, and I lacked the patience to sit at a sewing machine to make them over and over again, so I always paid someone to make them, which I then sold on the website that I built myself. Designers selling on Etsy, at that time, had such low pricing, that my products wouldn't stand a chance.

Correction: I designed the website myself, and I paid a programmer to build it because I wanted it to look just so, and I couldn't code for websites at that level. That programmer has since become my long-time programming partner when I quit my day job to design and produce websites, so paying him was always part of the equation in any client work I won or accepted. Which is how I lost jobs on price, and even had friends get offended when I quoted them a price to build their websites if they struck out in their own business. This was in the days before DIY website platforms like Squarespace or Wix. Some friends expected me to give them my work, aka not charge my usual rate, and I couldn't because I had to pay someone to build it. It was guilt that I worked through over time.

Freebies and Indentured Designers

Designers around me could build all of their own stuff. Jewelry. Jackets. Websites. So they paid no one, and didn't factor this cost into their pricing. My accessories were priced higher than everyone else's. My checkbook cover retailed at $25. My jewelry pouch with 5 pockets, 3 earring straps and 2 ring loops was $65. A woman who I sought SEO advice from when I first launched my website suggested that SEO wasn't my problem, that it was my pricing. She herself, she told me, could make that jewelry pouch herself, and saw it usually retailing for $10 on the Internet.

Lots of the website SEO (aka Google) traffic I got, actually, was for patterns to make the products I designed. I can't follow a pattern, nor can I make one, so these searchers on Google could have fun looking for the pattern that I paid a woman stitcher to develop, as I wasn't about to just post it as a PDF on my website for anyone to copy. Even though posting a free pattern PDF is a great SEO trick because so many people search for it. Instead, to attract the people looking for freebies via SEO, I designed free desktop wallpaper, which did result in a commissioned piece once by a woman who wanted an illustration of high heels and bicycles. It was a flattering assignment, and I think I charged $75 for it.

Later on, after buying advertising with a reputable blog I followed, and getting subsequent PR for the exposure, my designs began to sell.The checkbook covers, and subsequent products like my "sexy sleepmask for travel" did sell on the Internet. Turns out, SEO and pricing wasn't my problem. Getting enough of the right people to my website was the problem. People who Googled "sexy sleepmasks for travel" bought the sleepmasks, and even a celebrity found it that way and bought one for his then girlfriend who he's now married to.

"You Don't Have To Work - I Can Support Us"

During my Morning Pages for my Artist's Way journey, a phrase bubbled to the surface that my very supportive husband spoke to me when we were engaged. I remember clearly where I was standing in our apartment, next to which living room piece of furniture. He said: "You realize that you don't need to work, and that I can support us. I want you to know that."

To many people, that statement is a gift. To a person feeling trapped in their job who really wants to paint and eventually sell their art, or to write and sell their book, this statement is a major support system to help make that happen. To me, it had the opposite effect. It was spoken in love and support, but tripped a money-earning blockage wire.

At that point, I paid for my own apartment on the 9th floor of a building in New York City. I proudly paid for it by my self - $1,750/month - and all of my bills. I had an ING savings account back then, and actively logged into my IRA account to fiddle with the investment settings - and even contributed to it! I was saving, I was working, and I had a plan.

When we got married, our joint returns unexpectedly bumped us into a higher tax bracket and we owed bunches of money in taxes because the quarterly estimates that I sent in each quarter were too low. The big tax return disappeared that year. They didn't factor in our joint filing which showed a lot of income.

I'm now on a payroll for myself, so that I don't have to send in quarterly taxes, but that "salary" is a pretty silly number, and is technically "poverty level" - I was told later by a banker who was considering me for a mortgage in 2008. Turns out $12,000/year is not impressive to a bank, even when you can write off most of your small NYC apartment because you work from it. He didn't care about the gross, which was $46,000, a number I was proud of and was the same number as the salary from the job I'd quit that year.

But the net, or my "Owner's Draws," led that banker to stop returning my emails. This is why I don't barter. The bank doesn't care how many massages you got in exchange for work.

Work as Choice - "You Don't Need To Work"

So what's with that phrase? Here is the discovery. When he said that, I was pretty jolted. I loved working. When you work for yourself, you usually love what you do. Being financially independent was a top priority for me. When presented with this statement, working became a choice. I don't have to work, but I wanted to work.

When I had my first child, all of my work income plummeted. Client work became very different. I wasn't emotionally ready for childcare, and everything changed. One afternoon I sunk to the floor of my kitchen, giving up, wanting to cry (ok, I probably was crying), and was encouraged by someone trying to help to "let it go...admit what you can and cannot do." But I didn't want to give up. I had visions and wanted to make them happen. I had ideas! A silly phrase a boyfriend once thought I was cute for saying.

Fast forward to now, and I have admitted to what I cannot do, and that means hiring people to work with me. I'm not giving up, and I'm making enough to pay them. But I'm not making enough to pay myself - no matter what the gross is. It's like a sliding scale of nothing. It's weird! The problem is in the profit margin, and not in the simple act of working and earning money.

Working in Secret - A Shadow Worker

After after my second child was born, I was digging out of that stuff, and was on the road to recovery when I learned I was pregnant with my third child.  The reason I plummeted was because working became a choice. A choice I felt that I was making over my children. So I didn't want to choose it over my children, so I only did it in secret. At night. When they were sleeping during naps. In the car at Target if they fell into a car nap. I have inverters in the car so that I can plug in my computer. I don't work from the car on road trips anymore because truth be told, my husband wants to talk to me, and now that the kids are in my life, they'd like to talk to me too - and be given snacks. But I do still plan for car naps in parking lots.

Sophie's Choice - Work or Children?

In my Morning Pages, I explored the phrase "You don't need to work - I can provide for us." What happened? When I was "working," which for me was both being creative and earning money, I was choosing to not be with my family - a Sophie's Choice syndrome (for those not familiar with the heartbreaking movie/concept, see here). This explained why I did a lot of work in the bathroom while on family trips. Secret. When visiting my husband's family, prior to kids, I actually did carve out time to sit at Panera, but that was when I had a retainer with a client, and had deadlines to produce for them. It felt justified. It wasn't my work, it was client work.
PS: This is beginnings of the cobbler dilemma for service providers who don't nurture their own businesses, only those of their clients, but that's a different article.

The Need to Work

So if we had all of the money in the world, and I didn't need the money and I didn't need to "work", would I still want to leave the house and "create?" I would! I would still want to leave and buy fabric. Or leave the house and draw something. Or leave the house to - let's be honest - go to a fitness class (this is a very hard thing to do! will the children be alright? will my husband feed them or will they waste away into TV and chips on the floor? truth: they will be fine - even with chips on the floor and ants in pursuit). Or close my door and cut fabric and sew something. But, I'd still be choosing my need to create or leave the house over my family, and that felt wrong.

Sure I could sew with my daughter, but she actually wants to work the machine. My son also. So I'm not pressing the pedal of the sewing machine, I'm enabling their experience of the sewing machine, which is awesome, but I'm not actually getting to make what I want to make. I want to help them and enlighten them, but you get the picture. Sophie's Choice.

The Joy of the Sale

Leaving something to create for yourself is not wrong. What I'm discovering through my Artist's Way, is that tapping into your creativity is inherent and necessary to live a sane life. However, one may feel the need to justify it with a sale. So a necklace gets priced at $5. A logo design gets priced at $50 or $350. Just so that it can sell, and the designer (or whatever industry) can say that they sold something. And then when I give my price of $3,500 (which includes paying my designer who specializes in logos and paying my producer fee for me - but still - logos are valuable even if I were to design it and involve no one), eyeballs fall out of their heads. Unless you're getting that number from an agency who has an office and people on staff, and then it becomes $10,500 and it's called "branding."

The epidemic is in the thrill of the sale - for any number - and it brings the pricing down for entire industries because people expect to pay $5 that took hours to make, and years of experience to make it special. It's the same as China pricing. Etsy pricing is China pricing. And Etsy isn't bad! It's a great platform to find wonderful things. It's the people who are pricing their things who need to up their game.

Women (might) feel that they don't "need to work" financially so won't charge, even though they do "need to work" to stay sane, and then charge nothing for their time. Women who work for themselves, but pay themselves half or nothing, and indenturing themselves.

My revelation was that money didn't factor into my guilt for leaving the house to "work" or to go create something. I was going to feel guilty anyway. The Sophie's Choice - kids/family or work? Since money didn't matter to my level of guilt, it suddenly disappeared. Of course I'm going to work! It keeps me sane, and I want the income! I want to contribute to my IRA again! Why wouldn't we want to deposit money into savings? Why wouldn't I want to pay into the mortgage? I get so excited when I do, because it's something that is very important to my own core values.

"I Didn't Go Back to Work Because It Cost the Same as Childcare."

Right - and when you do the numbers for all of the mothers work that you do - the primary care-giving - you're making about $5,000 a month. If you die, someone's going to need to come in every morning and wake the kids up, get them dressed, take them to school (or play with them if not in school yet), run to the grocery store, pay and manage all of the bills (which isn't as simple as just paying them - you may need to chase those bills and figure them out), then get the kids again, make dinner, and put them to bed. That's if you have a commuter husband like me who leaves at dawn and comes back after bedtime.

So yeah, you need that life insurance policy! Don't let your husband tell you that all is fine if you die - he'll make it work. He'll be facing a wall of expenses that he or anyone wasn't paying you before. Just searching for the child care replacement of you will take his time. This is why I have no issue with paying myself in pedicures. Or clothing purchases. Or having a life insurance policy.

"What Do You Need an LLC for?"

This phrase was another Blurt from a Time Traveler that emerged during my Morning Pages for my Artist's Way journey ("blurts" and "time travelers" are Artist's Way phrases). When I hung my shingle, I wanted to higher a lawyer to form my LLC because I'm just not that good at following directions on how to do that. This decision was questioned by someone who loves me and didn't mean anything bad by it, but couldn't see why I would need an LLC (the reasons why are a whole 'nother article...trust me...you need one if you're going to sell anything).

One reason why you need an LLC or SCorp is because you need a salary. You're not write-off. While it may be appealing to accountants or spouses to write off the expenses from your work ("we can write off your car!"), and keep your income low so as not to add to the joint filing, that must not feel very good to you as a person. It trains you not to want to earn more income, and trains you that your working amounts to expenses - negative.

Prior to 2010, the federal government sent out Social Security statements in the mail. It showed how much social security you were going to get based on your income. If you had a full time or W2 job, this is pretty clear. You're getting money back in social security. If you worked for yourself and never paid taxes, only hid them as expenses in your family tax returns, you're not getting any social security from your own earnings. You might not believe in Social Security anyway, but the concept is there - the monetary value not put into your work, is also monetary value not put into your future savings.

Pay thy self. You are not a write-off.

Women Are Paying Themselves Half Their Worth

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Tonight I discovered that women in business for themselves are paying themselves half of their worth. Gender pay gap be damned, we're doing it to ourselves and not even realizing it. This isn't a beat-ourselves-up-post, it's a hit-ourselves-over-the-head-and-wake-up post.

The Discovery of the Self-Imposed Pay Gap

During an event hosted at our office here at Tin Shingle in Beacon, NY for a group called Hudson Valley Women in Business, I was talking to a friend who designs high-end jewelry. And her jewelry isn't cheap. It took me three years to finally pull the trigger on a pair of her earrings. While we were talking at this event, I told to her that I'm making discoveries in an Artist's Way group I'm in that she was considering joining, and I confessed to her what I discovered in my Artist's Way journey.

I have recently made a discovery that despite what I sell not being cheap, I still don't make enough to make a salary. There I said it. Business bills get paid, but that's it. And I don't know why. No matter what the business expenses are, I make them, but not much more. Why? I'm in need of a money mindset shift.

I confessed this to my friend, and in response, she admitted that while she was coming up with pricing for a workshop series she was leading for a non-profit organization, she really struggled with the pricing. Them being a non-profit and all, and her being a super do-gooder person, she grappled with a real price. She broke down the hours it took her to prepare for the class, and then to deliver the class, and realized that her hourly rate for the workshop was actually double what she thought she should be charging. She took a deep breath, submitted the rate to the prospective client, and they didn't bat an eye. "Oh sure, that price is right in line with what we pay our other people."

My friend was shocked at their acceptance of her rate, and that she almost undercharged for her time and talent by half.

Another time years ago, I moderated a small panel at Barnard College for women in business. One of the panelists was a woman who co-founded a frozen dessert company. They made this chocolate dessert and sold it in many stores, including Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and others. They had fleets of trucks shipping their product all over the country. They boasted that they never took a salary. None once. Why? To keep investing in their business. But why? I was stupefied.

Discovery of the Pay Discrepancy Made During The Artist's Way Journey

Last month during a Valentine making workshop, I bought (finally) a copy of The Artist's Way for $5, and committed to doing it because a friend asked for a book club around it and I accepted. I can host a book club in our office, so bring it on. It's met twice so far, and has been a really gentle, and intense experience. Love it.

The book is all about creativity as a spiritual practice, and that you can dive in and unclog. You can silence the "Censors" who tell you you can't do something. Why what you want to do is wrong or won't work. During this experience so far, I discovered (I think) that what needs unclogging for me right now is money and pricing. I've unleashed some crafting creativity in the form of furniture painting and website design, so I'm all good there. But something made me buy this book and agree to show up each week to this group of others who are showing up each week, and what has emerged for me is the money aspect. There is something wrong with how I'm earning it.

I'm Not The Cheapest Chip In Town

Never have been. Even when I sold accessories I designed and produced, I paid someone to sew them, so I built that into my pricing, and advocated that others do as well. Consulting isn't cheap either - at $175/hr, so what's the problem? Or maybe that is cheap! LOL

I'm making exactly enough to pay the business bills. That is the problem. Whatever that number is, is what I make. It's need based. There is no cushion. There is no profit margin. If the business  bills go up, the gross number goes up, but the net stays the same. That's no problem. The amount made is for the amount needed for bills at that moment. I may have issues with profit margin. It may make me uncomfortable. And that is what I need to unclog.

The Salary - Undervalued

I was approached to head up the communications effort for a large client. I don't know their budget, but let's just say that they are pretty big with a lot going on. They wanted me to put something together to create and promote their communications. To report on their business, essentially. I told them I'd need 2 writers and a designer at least, and that I'd come back with a proposal. And where do I factor into that budget, because I would not be the main writer. I would be the producer and guide of the content strategy and execution.

So I thought, Ok, if we were on staff, in their Communications Department (which they don't have), what would my own salary be? It would be $46K. How do I know? Because that's what I made at my last full time job 15 years ago. So that must be right. They'd be saving lots of money because they wouldn't pay my health insurence or any other benefits. So it's right, right?

Wrong. It's been 15 years and the work I've done to build three businesses with three websites that reach hundreds of thousands of people and has changed the lives of some, is worth something. When I was quitting my day job 15 years ago to strike out on my own as a website designer and now also a digital marketer, an editor of The Village Voice interviewed for my job. When she learned the salary, she admitted that she couldn't possibly work for a salary that low. I underestimated what I did then, at $46K, so what am I doing now? Fifteen years and a lot of experience later?

Where Do We Go From Here?

I don't know. I'm working through the money issues through The Artist's Way because I have a feeling I'm going to have to face some Censors. And then I'm going to call Galia Gichon to whip my plans into shape and take her current Accelerator program with HerCorner.

I'm embracing March Madness as getting mad about my money issues and facing them. There is no reason for this! Enough. And the change is in my hands! Our hands. We are the boss. So let's make it happen! And realize that our needs, what we "need" to earn is actually much greater, and includes Summer Camp, IRAs, cash saved for when you can't work because you go on your own family leave, and a new couch, dammit!

Photo Credit: Like this photo? It's awesome and was made available on CreativeMarket.com from Ira Cvetnaya.